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SEXTANT

Herbie Hancock

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Herbie Hancock Sextant album cover
4.12 | 122 ratings | 14 reviews | 32% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing


1. Rain Dance (9:18)
2. Hidden Shadows (10:12)
3. Hornets (19:31)

Total Time 39:02

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians


- Herbie Hancock - piano, Fender Rhodes, Hohner D-6 clavinet, mellotron
- Bennie Maupin - soprano sax, bass clarinet, piccolo, afuche, hum-a-zoo
- Dr. Eddie Henderson - trumpet, flugelhorn
- Julian Priester - bass trombone, tenor trombone, alto trombone, cowbell
- Buster Williams - electric bass, acoustic bass
- Billy Hart - drums
- Dr. Patrick Gleeson - ARP 2600 and soloist
- Buck Clarke - percussion


Releases information

LP Columbia KC 32212

Thanks to clarke2001 for the addition
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Head HuntersHead Hunters
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Maiden VoyageMaiden Voyage
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The Warner Bros. Years (1969-1972)The Warner Bros. Years (1969-1972)
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River: The Joni LettersRiver: The Joni Letters
Verve 2007
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HERBIE HANCOCK Sextant ratings distribution


4.12
(122 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(32%)
32%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
45%
Good, but non-essential (18%)
18%
Collectors/fans only (4%)
4%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

HERBIE HANCOCK Sextant reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
5 stars Before changing label, Hancock had to record one more album with Mwandishi, and it came in early 73, when he did the soundtrack music of the very confidential film The Spook Who Sat By The Door, for which both Hancock and Rubinson (his producer) added funds to finish it. Someday maybe, this soundtrack will get an official release. The third and last album of the Mwandishi trilogy is the first album Hancock recorded for his new label Columbia (home of all the electric jazz rock stars) in the spring 73 and the least we can say is that the closing tier of the said-trilogy is definitely no easier on the ears than its precessors. Going through Hancock's discography in the racks of the record store, the proghead's attention can only be drawn and stop his eyes on this album's stupendous artwork, courtesy of Stringett (already responsible for Crossings), and the proghead will immediately know that this is Herbie's most progressive album (along with Crossings). Indeed Herbie was still following Miles' Bitches Brew's footsteps and that album's awesome artwork proves it. So the potential Hancock investigators will normally head towards Sextant and Crossings, the Mwandishi albums closest to Miles' Bitches.

With an unchanged line-up, the sextet attacks Sextant as if they were in the middle of a song from the previous album Crossings. And the least we can say is that Rain Dance is probably one of Hancock's most hermetic tracks he ever wrote. Completely experimental with electronic sounds that could've escaped from Isao Tomita's soundscape albums, the song is close to nightmarish and presents some Krautrock reminiscence ala Can or early TD. Somehow, this track is also reminiscent of Genesis' Waiting Room on the Lamb album. Indeed these gloomy sounds from outer space come from their seventh member Patrick Gleason and he's never been so present than on Rain Dance. He's also fairly present in the following Hidden Shadows, busy with a mellotron (among others), while Maupin pulls out some superb sounds from his wide array of horns. Outstanding stuff, making you forget the previous track's obtuse stand on in/excluding the listener.

The flipside is again taken by a sidelong track, the almost 20-mins Hornets, one of his funkiest so far (wait 'till HH, to see/hear funk), but the tracks has moments that evoke indeed a flight of hornets. Musically it's halfway between Rain Dance and Shadows, but it's overstaying its welcome by at least 5 minutes. Hancock himself has turned towards the synths and with Gleeson, they started using loops

Again faced with public incomprehension, Sextant failed to sell anymore than the other two Mwandishi albums on WB. But this time it was clear that HH's troupes were now struggling to find further grounds to explore and were starting to repeat themselves. With albums selling too few, an irregular public presence and questionable gigs (even finding The Pointer Sister as openers), stolen tapes in front of the Vanguard Village and the usual road fatigue, the group So Herbie folded Mwandishi and his next project would be bringing him exactly what lacked this one: commercial success. In the meantime, Sextant is probably the least "accessible" Mwandishi album, but it's no less worthy and maybe my preferred one.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#186105) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, October 17, 2008

Review by js (Easy Money)
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The last album by Herbie's Sextant is a mixed bag, excellent in some parts, less so in others. The album opens with Rain Dance. This song is all about 7th member Patrick Gleeson and his Arp sequencer. Patrick sets up some killer old school analog synth sequences that sound like an African take on early electronic composer Morton Subotnik. The band interacts some, but much of this track is all syncopated electronics. I'm sure the sections where the drums interact with the sequencer are a prize find for many an acid jazz DJ. Because of it's analog textures and early synthesizer technology, this track also has an almost kitsch 'futuristic'/retro appeal to it. Definitely something to put on when you are trying to show off your most unique tracks to your music collecting friends.

The following track, Hidden Shadows is a real psychedelic gem. The band hit's a slow odd metered groove that has the bass clarinet doubling the deep wah wah bass line. Over this Herbie layers psychotic 'classical' piano, sweeping Mellotrons, synth noises and orchestrated horn lines that recall Herbie's late 60s impressionistic lounge jazz.

On side two though, the band begins to lose their way. The lengthy improvisation Hornets makes up all of this side and it is your standard psychedelic free rock-jazz work out that was common with people who had spent time playing with Miles. This would be just fine, but the usually brilliant Bennie Maupin decides he is going to play the part of the 'hornet' and begins to jam furiously on the 'Hum-a-Zoo' ie a kazoo. He only lets up for a few minutes towards the end of the side when Hancock plays an amazing ultra-aggressive keyboard solo switching between electronically processed clavinet and electric piano and is building things to a peak when all of a sudden someone leaves the screen door open and here comes that damn hornet again.

Side one of this album features The Sextant's usual brilliant mix of electronics, uniquely orchestrated horns, modern composition and vast psychedelic soundscapes, but side two is just annoying, unless you like kazoos.

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Send comments to js (Easy Money) (BETA) | Report this review (#204887) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, March 02, 2009

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is the third straight album with the same lineup (except for Gleeson) and it shows.The interplay is so precise that I have to include that as being one of the highlights of this album. I also must say that my respect and admiration for Herbie Hancock as a composer is on a new level after spending considerable time with this record. This recording is unique and it really takes a path that no one has quite taken before.

People including our own Sean Trane mention the word Krautrock when talking about "Rain Dance" with all the electronics going on. "Hidden Shadows" recalls Miles Davis but the added mellotron adds a different flavour to the mix. "Hornets" the side long suite is my favourite and about half way through we get a Zeuhl-like rhythm with fuzzed out bass that is repeated over and over. I thought I was listening to Janick Top ! On top of all this I actually really enjoy listening to this album. Unfortunately the public at large didn't embrace this album or the previous two which led Herbie to move in a new direction with his next recording "Head Hunters".

"Rain Dance" has been called "Trance Jazz" because of how repetitive the electronic soundscape is half way through. It bubbles away with synths and percussion with all these sounds coming and going and then bass and drums enter the picture before 1 1/2 minutes. Electric piano a minute later until electronics dominate after 5 1/2 minutes. "Hidden Shadows" has this fairly slow rhythm (bass & clarinet) as mellotron comes in. Horn blasts come and go recalling Miles. Synths do the same actually. Mellotron 4 minutes in. Great sound a minute later. Mellotron is back 6 minutes in as piano follows. There's so much going on before 8 minutes.

"Hornets" is the 19 1/2 minute closer. Just a fantastic groove to this one. Herbie's clavinet and all these intricate sounds coming and going. Horns go crazy 8 minutes in and then these repetitive fuzzed out bass lines give us that Zeuhl flavour. Check out the rhythm 15 minutes in ! Drums come crashing in at 18 minutes. The fuzz bass is back along with the Hum-A-Zoo.

This album isn't an easy listen but a very interesting and rewarding one. I get that same buzz listening to this record as I do with "Bitches Brew" and some of Miles' other albums.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#217417) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, May 22, 2009

Review by Kazuhiro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This album might be a work that exists at a slight position in the history of the music of Hancock. If it thinks about the flow to "Head Hunters" that is his representative's work, it gives the impression in the blind spot. His creation and activity in age of Blue Note. And, his work in Warnerbros. A general, dark, heavy impression might have been given in this age. However, there was a peculiar road where only he was able to create it in various Jazz/Fusion that greatly revolutionized and derived from Miles in the 70's. After he had contracted to CBS in 1972, this album became the first album in CBS. It is ..sound.. finished though the route is in the flow that passes "Clothing" from "Mwandshi". be refined further with the cultivated idea as the weapon with ..the composition.. Miles DavisHancock expresses "Confusion" and "Order" well in this album. The keyboard and the idea that he performs are expressed by "Rain Dance" with those elements. The confusion drawn out from the pattern of the sound like the game has changed into the ease of the sound that will be repeated before long. And, the spirit of Jazz advances coming in succession without the sense of incompatibility. The tune connected in shape to receive it shows wide by "Hidden Shadows". I think that some order exists also also in this tune where mysterious atmosphere drifts. Do the float of the activity of an analog synthesizer in the space with other musical instruments coming in succession. "Hornets" creates one space in union with the dash feeling the change to music. The power that they invented might have been an answer to a reformative element and existing music if it imagined it from a situation at that time as the challenge. The energy of the work might have had power to develop further though it was a content thought that it was difficult to forecast Head Hunters connected as follows in this album.

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Send comments to Kazuhiro (BETA) | Report this review (#226931) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is one of earlier Herbie Hancock album and one of his most progressive work ever. Last album in Sextant trilogy, it contains only three long compositions!

The music is almost avantgade mix of synthesizers, horn section and african drumming. All album is full of ideas and energy. Many fans know Hancock by his later very commercial albums, and often are not too much interested in his music. Try this, you will be surprised!

Long and multilayered compositions are real gem! By structures and sound they are closer to Weather Report music, than to more usual fusion of Return To Forever or Mahavishnu Orchestra. Great bass line and drumming pulsation came close to funk-fusion of next Hancock period. Combination of synth-keyboards and brass often sounds freaky. All the sound has a touch of psychedelia.

Really very experimental,fresh and unusual Hancock ( at least - modern Hancock) album. Very recommended.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#248060) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
4 stars Third and last Hancock album recorded with the Mwandishi line-up and probably the most experimental and hermetic one. Still, it's not so elitist as to deserve a meager 19 ratings (as opposed to over a 1000 for CTTE). So high time to try and change the trend here.

With Rain Dance we don't get an easy start. It's 9 minutes of bubbling sequenced synths with metallic sound effects. There's only a short section where the drums and bass join to add a funkier touch. As pointed out in other reviews this piece sits quite close to what Can was doing around that time on Future Days.

Hidden Shadows is a more accessible piece and probably the best on the album. It's driven by a very intricate funky beat that is so thoroughly syncopated that it creates a very nervous tension, constantly searching to find resolve that never comes. Layers of psychedelic sounds round off this simply brilliant piece of music.

Also Hornets is a very psychedelic jazz-rock piece reminiscent of Miles Davis and Weather Report in those days. The rhythm grooves more easily then on Hidden Shadows and allows for a fine 20 minute psych-jazz jam session.

Original, intense, intricate, mesmerizing. Those are the main adjectives that pop up while experiencing this brilliant music. It's just a bit behind Sextant for me but in fact it's equally impressive and recommended. 4.5 stars

PS. For admires of this period of Hancock's music there are two more Mwandishi albums out there that were recorded with the same band and released under the name of featuring trumpet-man Eddie Henderson.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#302758) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, October 08, 2010

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars There is a part of me that says I should not give this album 5 stars. That part of me is trying to be nice to all the symph/neo/crossover lovers out there. But I really don't think the PA Review Police will harass me for giving an album not in those 3 subs a 5-star review. Especially if I feel that it deserves such a rating. Fans of Yes, Dream Theater or Marillion will most likely not think much of the music presented here. However, I think proggers who enjoy Fusion, Zeuhl, RIO and/or Krautrock will find much to enjoy here.

This is, IMO, the best of the Mwandishi trilogy. In fact I also prefer this to anything Hancock, Henderson, Maupin or Priester did after recording Sextant. It's no wonder the album was a flop at the time of it's release: the world was not ready for this kind of stuff! Today, I imagine lots of hip-hoppers and hipsters would drool over the music presented here. What we get on this album is a mix of psychedelic jazz, avant-funk and electronics. Dr. Patrick Gleeson is almost the star of this album with his use of ARP synths. Of course the real star is Herbie himself who puts his Rhodes and clavinet through various effects(fuzz-wah, Echoplex, phase shifter). He also uses the Mellotron to great effect, although the 'Tron use on Crossings is probably better. But the synthesizers are much more prominent on Sextant.

"Rain Dance" is techno-jazz for the 21st century...recorded in 1972! "Hidden Shadows" is what happens when funk, avant-garde and symphonic rock crash into each other on a highway. "Hornets" almost 20 minutes just seem to fly by. I just love the way Billy Hart keeps threatening to play a straight-funky beat but restrains himself at the last moment. This song is almost the missing link between Miles' On The Corner album and Hancock's next Headhunters album. So five stars it is. If you want to hear some amazing and truly original "jazz" music, look no further. If you're obsessed with melody and suite-like structures, look elsewhere.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#303748) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars Sextant was Hancock's last album with the Mwandishi lineup. It fuses the sounds of the future with the sounds of the past in an innovative way, experimenting with the media of newer technology over an older canvas, as it were. Sextant is an interesting experience, but not necessarily always an enjoyable one.

"Rain Dance" The first piece melds bleeps, bloops, pings, nasally whines, and various electronic fare with more traditional jazz tones, including upright bass, fluid drumming, and an electric piano on lead. Synthesizer pioneer Dr. Patrick Gleeson offers an exhibition of the ARP 2600. It is noteworthy that this semi-modular analog subtractive audio synthesizer was used to create the voice of R2-D2 from the Star Wars films- one can imagine the droid serenading his robotic lover on some faraway cyber-planet. Hancock's Rhodes playing is a highlight, but I think it is Buster Williams's swampy acoustic bass work that stands out most- certainly not my favorite bassist by a long shot, but his eccentric approach is at home in this piece. Despite the use of electronics, the music has a somewhat organic feel- it is an exercise in the fusion of the natural and the synthetic.

"Hidden Shadows" Underneath a laidback funk groove, Hancock delivers some gentle Mellotron and a few other tricks, tossing in a combination of lounge jazz piano and classical runs. The brass is a wonderful aspect, keeping the whirlwind on a stable course with a striking main theme.

"Hornets" The freest and funkiest of the pieces is also the lengthiest one. Unfortunately, it is also the weakest. The individual players shine, but as just that- individuals. Collectively, they sound a mess, and the kazoo is more of a fitting distraction than anything, if that makes any sense at all. The brass, electric piano, and clavinet are highlights, livening up a simple fuzzy bass riff, but overall the music feels like fresh compositional ideas were lacking, and so jam band territory was unavoidable.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#350503) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review by thehallway
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The end of an era. An era of excellent music, but poor sales, unsuccessful touring and uncomfortable living conditions. Before Herbie Hancock delivers his first commercial masterpiece, he gives us one more crazy fusion album.

Sextant uses the 1X20, 2X10 format that was popular on 1970s LPs, containing three tracks, with one being twice the length of the other two. 'Rain Dance' is a wonderful, exotic slice of electronica fused with avant-garde jazz and funk grooves. Synthesizers are used extensively here (probably more than on any other Hancock composition), put to good use as rhythmic loops, freaky sound effects, and actual melodies as well. This is the bulk of the piece actually, but the highlights are Herbie's slightly dissonant Rhodes solo and Buster's feature on the double bass, which of course, sounds rather old fashioned on such a futuristic song. It is a composition that will grow on you in terms of enjoyment, but will impress you on intellectual terms right from its first outing.

The more straightforward (a meaningless term on this album, perhaps) 'Hidden Shadows' is built around a rocking 19/4 groove between the bass and drums, which is the only instance of that time signature I have ever encountered. Impressive though the rhythm is, it hardly flows very well. But once the flurries of dense Mellotron, jolly horns and insane piano come rolling along, it's easy to forget all about the awkward timings and just bask in the wall of sound. Tonal variation is where this piece succeeds, as opposed to development of the main themes (if there are any). The African percussion and woodwind bursts are essential to the mood as well, making this song most in tune with the album's cover art, even if it is heavily influenced by Bitches Brew.

The big piece is 'Hornets', and hearing the kazoo-like buzzes and whistles makes it easy to imagine a swarm off bugs dancing around under the moonlight. Unfortunately though, it gets boring. If this jam was close to the length of the other two, it would succeed more as a mood piece. At 19 minutes, the thick bass line and constant cymbals eventually grow into an irritating pulsation that is only marginally saved by the solos from the clavinet, fuglehorn and bass clarinet. The instrument that sounds like a duck is also annoying.

Overall, Sextant is a decent album from jazz's most treasured keyboard player, making it phenomenal on ordinary terms. But it is still not quite as good as the albums that surround it, mainly because 'Hornets' loses the listener about halfway through. If the final track was shorter and there was an extra 10-minuter, maybe something synthy like 'Rain Dance', this album would be a masterpiece. Instead, it is just a really great fusion album. It isn't so adventurous musically, but it is probably one of the most adventurous albums ever in terms of instruments.

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Send comments to thehallway (BETA) | Report this review (#484500) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, July 17, 2011

Review by progrules
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Hancock's Sextant could best be described as Herbie going to the extremes. I mean, if you think Crossings was as far as he could go in extravaganza then you'd better check out Sextant as well (that is if you don't know it yet of course). On Crossings there was quite an amount of music to be enjoyed all in all but with this successor it's only Hidden Shadows that provides some main stream jazz, the rest is sheer (jazz) prog. Avant prog with lots of experimentation one might say.

With Crossings I managed to squeeze out a four star rating in the end but Sextant is a step too far in the "overdoing" aspect as far as I'm concerned. Or as Robert (Epignosis) already stated: it's not always enjoyable. Unless avant jazzprog is totally your fav cup of tea of course ....

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#592422) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The swansong of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi-era sextet is perhaps the most diverse and artistically successful album by the unit. As well as a fabulous fusion performance in the tradition of Davis' In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew (and, of course, the sextet's very own Mwandishi and Crossings), the album also shows an increased influence of funk as well as some superb synthesiser work, which at points is more reminiscent of the spacier end of the Krautrock scene (as represented by the likes of early Tangerine Dream). It's an album very much dedicated to the fusion idea, taking jazz as its foundation and cramming in so many other genres that it ends up filled to bursting.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#797603) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review by Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Any concept of what ''jazz'' should be will be shattered as soon as you listen to SEXTANT. Herbie Hancock takes a normal jazz fusion approach and wings out into more experimental/avant areas to make one of the most forward thinking albums ever.

Here's smart idea #1: have the track titles make sense to what the music is doing. WEATHER REPORT had that knack on their debut album, and Hancock can get that visceral connection as well. When I think of ''Hornets'', I thinking of the buzzing sounds from the keyboards that remind me of actual hornets. That's just an example.

Smart idea #2: set up a groovy backbone so that the length is not an issue. Even as plinky, plunky and Tangerine-Dreamy as ''Rain Dance'' is, the handclaps give the track an identifiable groove that you can bop your head to.

Smart idea #3: Bennie Maupin. The man practically made Miles Davis's BITCHES BREW album an enjoyable experience. He takes on more woodwind instruments here via necessity. But that bass clarinet does show up in ''Hidden Shadows'' parroting the bass, and boy is that spellbinding.

And keep in mind that some African based rhythms creep their way into the sound of the band here to the point where that is the reason why the jams hold up so well. That rhythmic foundation is key to the artistic achievement of SEXTANT. It's as if the ideas originally set by Osibisa are taken to the next level.

SEXTANT is far more than a fusion album. It's a dazzling music experience unlike any you've ever laid ears on. A masterpiece from inception.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#800290) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, August 04, 2012

Latest members reviews

5 stars Electronic swathes of sound undercut by funky bass in which saxophonist Bennie Maupin is beautifully lost in the sea of sound conjured up by the cacophony of the other players. 'Sextant' is proper space funk, that could only have been made in the early 70's. And incredibly, it doesn't sound da ... (read more)

Report this review (#421711) | Posted by Dobermensch | Thursday, March 24, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Is that Progressive rock? Definitely not. Is that progressive music? I am not sure. But it is jazz, not jazz-rock, not fusion or someone similar, but it is clearly modern jazz. A lot of tunes, sounds, keynotes - too much for me. Tracks are predominately unstructured, aimless, chaotic (in terms of ... (read more)

Report this review (#321771) | Posted by Koper | Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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